Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Big Spend

Cosmetics are expensive, whether you shop at Mecca Cosmetica or Priceline ($45 just for two lipglosses on my last trip there!). For the sake of my wallet, I have had to search for cheaper means to feed my addiction. This either means going online or occasionally buying duty free when I fly overseas. I also pick up make up in other countries the way people pick up souvenirs. 

However, I know there are some of you who are hesitant about shelling out for a luxury make up item without actually seeing it first. Here are a few ways to take advantage of online shopping without being totally in the dark about your purchases:

1. Go fantasy shopping. All this means is going to your local department store/make up store and trying out the oh-so-expensive make up you want to buy. Make sure you write down the brand, name and shade of the product you want. This is especially important for brands like Shu Uemura and Lancome, where shades are assigned numbers rather than names. 

2. See the swatch. If you're lusting after something, chances are that someone else has too and they've kindly posted a picture of it on the Internet. Usually typing your product name followed by the word 'swatch' into Google should be enough to get you some photos. If you want some high-quality photos plus reviews, then check out Temptalia (especially her extensive swatch gallery for comparisons with similar products), and KarlaSugar, who's byline says it all - 'The Next Best Thing To Going Shopping!' Seeing swatches is especially useful when you're considering buying a product that isn't sold locally. 

3. Read the reviews. Almost every cosmetic item in the world has been reviewed by someone. Some reviews are harder to find than others (depending on how local/obscure the product is). Many online sellers offer customer reviews, but I usually take these with a pinch of salt. It's rare to see a negative comment on the site that's trying to sell the product. Try a third party site for a more accurate review. I highly recommend Makeup Alley and the Vogue Australia Forums.

All purchased online!

I hope these tips help some of you more hesitant make up junkies to take the online shopping plunge with confidence!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Marie Antoinette: The Journey (2001)

The feather-plumed hat, the towering coiffure, the tiered pastry stand laden with macarons…just some of the whirlwind of images that come to mind at the mention of this most (in)famous royal. Marie Antoinette spent centuries as a reviled figurehead of the ancien régime, a femme fatale whose machinations brought about a revolution. Antonia Fraser cuts through the myths to discover the real woman behind all the legends – Marie Antoinette, last anointed Queen of France.

Genre: History, Biography

In 1755, Marie Antoinette was born to Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, the fifteenth child pawn to be used by her mother in the political mêlée of Europe. At age 15, she was sent away from Austria to marry the Dauphin, Louis Auguste. At age 19, she was Queen of France. At 38, she was dead.

Despite a lavish and sheltered childhood and a gilded adolescence, the young princess was forever trapped in a power struggle between opposing political factions. As a foreigner, she was constantly blamed for the financial woes of the country. As a woman, she was constantly accused of influencing her husband’s poor decision-making. Throughout her time at the French court, she was a popular subject of the anti-royalist propaganda machine. Her person was used as a symbol for all the profligacy and debauchery of the French nobility.

With the popularity of the monarchy declining, Marie Antoinette retreated into a world of her own where she could make believe she was a simple farmwife. She also spent much of her time on her children, happy in the motherly role, as she had never been in role of Queen. As the Revolution gathered momentum, she tried in vain to ameliorate her public image, but it was too late.

I have a great love of Lady Antonia Fraser’s writings (six fat volumes currently sit on my desk). Even her biographies about men primarily deal with women, and there’s a reason why. She depicts great women who were often overlooked and undervalued in their own lifetimes, but who (sometimes by accident of birth, sometimes by strength of character) have shaped the future.

This biography deals painstakingly with the details of her birth and childhood, which are very important, as they set the scene for a woefully undereducated and unprepared girl to enter the cutthroat arena of French court life. Reading about the life of a young woman, it is impossible for me as a young woman myself, to not put myself in her position. It seems astounding that a mere child could be expected to bear children to a husband she barely knows, while performing a balancing act between pushing her mother’s political agenda without stepping out of the bounds of her role as submissive wife. Furthermore, she had to deal with some incredible slander, including tales of cannibalism, necrophilia, lesbianism and incest.

Antonia Fraser portrays a sensitive, indulgent, compassionate and motherly woman. Far from being the callous harlot she was painted, she is shown to be pious (the word ‘prudish’ also comes to mind) and conservative. She was the ultimate victim of misogyny and xenophobia. Her story is amazing and dramatic, even more so because it is perfectly true. In her short lifetime, she made a lasting impression that is still around us today. This book is an entertaining and eye-opening read, and will change your mind about the most famous royal lady of all time.

PS. Sofia Coppola’s film, while beautiful and poignant, is a poor substitute for Fraser’s book. Marie Antoinette: The Journey provides a rich context to the life of the Queen, and deals with the most trying time of her life, which the film does not show. If you have enjoyed the film, I entreat you to try the book. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Branching Out

Due to some minor technical difficulties and some major laziness difficulties, I've been neglecting both reading and blogging. Now, although this blog is about my love of books, I consider myself a multi-faceted girl with many loves. The only other things I spend vast quantities of time and money on are cosmetics. Therefore, from time to time, there may be a post or two about this great love.

However, the book posts will continue - including an upcoming feature of fantasy authors!!! Dragons and quests and fairies, oh my!